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Volume 21 No. 38
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Kathy Duva, Main Events Boxing

Photo: Rich Graessle

When Kathy Duva lost her husband, Dan, to a brain tumor in 1996, she knew that, with three school-age children at home, she couldn’t fill his role as head of boxing promotion company Main Events, even though he’d passed controlling interest to her.

“I remember sitting at my kitchen table thinking, ‘What do I do now?’” said Duva, who had handled public relations for the company whose stars included Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Arturo Gatti. “For the first time in my life, I didn’t have anyone I had to please. So the answer was, I could be or do whatever I wanted.”

Kathy Duva

Chief Executive Officer, Main Events Boxing
Born: 
Dover, N.J.
Education: 
B.A., English, Montclair State University; J.D., Seton Hall University

Duva decided to go to law school, taking classes on a schedule that allowed her to be home with her children in the afternoon. But while she was in school, business at Main Events turned south. She felt she had to take over control, but she didn’t want to give up on a law degree. So she hired an experienced boxing executive to manage the company. When she finished school, she took over as CEO.

“I knew the business, but running it was new territory and it took a while for me to develop the confidence that you need,” Duva said. “You have to understand, I moved from my father’s house into my husband’s, like a nice Italian girl was supposed to. My father was wonderful. He encouraged my education and my love of sports. He said, ‘You can be whatever you want to be — but be a good wife and mother.’ That’s how I grew up.”

Today, Duva’s staff is made up almost entirely of women, including Chief Operating Officer Nicole Duva, an attorney who also is her daughter.

— Bill King

Getting to know...

Networking works best when: I bring my wing women with me. 
Misperception of working in sports: That people think it’s harder for women than in other businesses. I don’t think it is. I have a lot of wonderful, accomplished friends who are women who are lawyers and judges and doctors. The problems I have and problems they have are identical. … The fact that I have a strong group of women working with me actually makes it easier for me, because I’m usually not the only female voice in the room.
Proudest professional achievement: The Gatti-Ward fights. I had nothing to do with making Gatti-Ward I; II and III were all mine.
I wish I’d known at my career’s start: It took me a while to learn not to be intimidated by people who were successful or accomplished; to have confidence in myself.